By Gregg Katz
Despite being an over $25 billion a year industry, and being bigger than other entertainment industries, video games are still often described as childish. Roger Ebert is infamous in the gaming community for stating that “video games can never be art.” Another criticism is that they invite emulation, especially games such as Grand Theft Auto, which has been used in criminal trials as part of the defense team’s argument. However, as the Supreme Court recently ruled (PDF) in Brown v. EMA, videos game cannot be censored. Even though I will almost always defend the video game industry, video games can go too far and cross an important moral line.
IGN recently had a great article about real life events being turned into video games and asked whether these games exploited human tragedies. I would have to agree that certain games exploit real events to make profitable entertainment products and can trivialize victims’ pain, but that the real problem with certain video games is the desensitization caused by using these events. In the article, the game “Call of Juarez: The Cartel” is profiled. This game is based on border drug violence in Mexico, and thus demands the question: is real life border drug violence is an appropriate subject for a video game? I’m not worried about a person playing the game and deciding that running a drug cartel is a fun occupation and going out and starting a drug cartel. I’m worried that people won’t care that the violence depicted is based on real life violence and begin to accept it as a normal part of the world. Games like Grand Theft Auto, while presenting violent acts that certainly can occur in the real world, take place in fictional cities with fictional characters partaking in fictional events. This game, however, is different. People should not view things like drug violence as an acceptable occurrence in Mexico or accept it as the norm.
Certain topics must be morally off limits. For example, no one should make or play a video game based on the recent massacre in Norway. If such a game would be made and played, will people still be shocked and horrified when it happens in the real world? The world needs to view and react to such events in a certain way not ignore them. Gamers taking actions because of video games is not the problem, gamers not taking actions because of video games is.